Pro­mo­tion on pow­der

Matthews tick­eted for “A team” moguls af­ter break­through win

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By John Meyer John Meyer: jmeyer@den­ver­ or @john­meyer

When Sum­mit County freestyle moguls skier Mikaela Matthews cap­tured her first World Cup win in seven years on the U.S. Ski Team last month in Ruka, Fin­land, there was more fu­el­ing her ela­tion than the sim­ple thrill of vic­tory.

It meant she won’t have to pay to be on the U.S. Ski Team next sea­son.

As a mem­ber of the “C team” this sea­son, Matthews had to come up with $20,000 to off­set her team travel ex­penses. Her win in Ruka on Dec. 12, the first World Cup moguls event of the sea­son, qual­i­fied her for the “A team” next sea­son, so she will be “fully funded” then.

“It’s def­i­nitely a huge re­lief,” said Matthews, who is from Frisco but trains out of Park City, Utah. “It so­lid­i­fies my spot for next year, so no mat­ter what hap­pens the rest of this sea­son I have an ‘A team’ spot next year, I have World Cup starts for next year, I have fund­ing for next year. It’s se­cu­rity all around.”

Matthews was able to raise much of her $20,000 charge through two foun­da­tion grants, but her par­ents still had to pay “thou­sands of dol­lars” to the team.

“As a kid you have this ideal in your head, ‘If I just make the U.S. Ski Team, I’ve done it, I’m at the top of the top.’ But once you make the U.S. Ski Team, your bat­tle’s al­most just be­gin­ning,” said Matthews, 24. “You’re bat­tling for ‘A team’ spots, for World Cup starts, for Olympic spots.”

Her vic­tory was sweeter be­cause of what she en­dured the past two sea­sons too. In 2013 she cap­tured her first World Cup podium and made the world cham­pi­onships team, rais­ing her hopes of mak­ing the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but a month be­fore the Olympics she broke her right arm pre­par­ing for a World Cup in Lake Placid.

A de­scrip­tion of what hap­pened that day af­ter she crashed on a jump isn’t for the squea­mish.

“I came in pretty fast, I was a lit­tle on my heels for the flip and I over-ro­tated,” Matthews said. “I re­mem­ber that feel­ing of fall­ing out of the sky like, ‘My flip’s done and I still have a lot of room be­tween me and the ground.’ I came around and my arm got twisted be­hind me weird. I felt it pop and I knew some­thing was wrong. I re­mem­ber sit­ting, kind of hunched over with my feet tucked up be­hind me. It felt like my arm was in my lap in front of me, like I was cradling my arm. I looked down and it was twisted back be­hind me.

“That’s when I started scream­ing, feel­ing like my arm wasn’t at­tached.”

Her humerus was bro­ken into four pieces. Fix­ing it re­quired a four-hour surgery in­volv­ing a 9inch plate and 13 screws.

“Luck­ily I didn’t have any nerve dam­age,” Matthews said. “I had a shard of bone press­ing into my ra­dial nerve, which con­trols all of the func­tion of your hand. I got re­ally for­tu­nate with that.”

Last win­ter was “rocky” for a cou­ple of rea­sons. One was overcoming fear.

“That first train­ing camp, I had quite a few men­tal break­downs,” Matthews said. “I was like, ‘No, no, it’s too big, I’m go­ing to over-ro­tate.’ I had that fear: ‘The last time I over-ro­tated I broke my arm re­ally bad, I don’t want to do that again.’ ”

She also was in­tent on mas­ter­ing a dif­fi­cult new trick called a “back full,” a back­flip with a full twist. She spent most of last sea­son work­ing on it with mixed re­sults, but her hard work paid off: Only one other woman did a back full in Ruka com­pe­ti­tion.

“It’s the next step in pro­gress­ing our sport,” Matthews said.

Be­cause last week’s World Cup in Lake Placid was can­celed for lack of snow, Ruka has been the only moguls event so far this sea­son, but the tour re­sumes this week­end in Val St. Come, Que­bec.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to Val St. Come and hope­fully car­ry­ing this mo­men­tum with me,” Matthews said. “I’m ex­cited to com­pete in the yel­low (tour leader’s) bib, I’ve never done that be­fore. We’re all get­ting a lit­tle bit stir crazy. It’s been a re­ally big break and we’re all anx­ious to get back in the gate.”

Mikaela Matthews had to pay $20,000 to com­pete this sea­son as a “C team” mem­ber of the U.S. Ski Team. She will be a fully funded “A team” mem­ber next sea­son. Bruce Ben­nett, Getty Im­ages

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